Gotham Chopra on His Tom Brady Docuseries and Sports as Religion
Gotham Chopra is an award-winning filmmaker at the forefront of the convergence of sports, science and spirituality.
As the co-founder of Religion of Sports, a content and media company based in Los Angeles, Gotham has worked with some of the most elite athletes in the world including Tom Brady (Tom vs. Time), Kobe Bryant (Kobe Bryant's Muse), LeBron James (Shut Up and Dribble), Stephen Curry (Stephen vs. the Game), Simone Biles (Simone vs. Herself), Alex Morgan and Usain Bolt (Greatness Code). He produces content that pushes the boundaries of non-fiction cinema and brings the mythos of sports to a broad audience outside of those who simply follow the games.
Beyond box scores, wins and losses, and stats and sabermetrics, Gotham's brand of sports storytelling leans into the essence of human potential, the dramatic peaks and valleys of competition and athletic achievement, and the heroic narratives that accompany both triumph and failure.
We spoke to Gotham for our Time-Out series, where we chat with folks in the sports world about their favorite athletes, teams, sports movies and shows, and their love of sports generally.
Gotham, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I was born and raised in Boston, where I became a true Masshole and lifelong fan of the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins. I now live among the philistines of Los Angeles—where I've actually lived longer than I did in Boston—but alas, I'll always hate the Lakers, roll my eyes at the Angels, and be indifferent toward pretty much everyone else.
Your earliest sports memory.
Game 2 of the 1986 divisional playoff game between the Celtics and Bulls at the old Boston Garden. Michael Jordan scored 63 points in a double overtime loss to my favorite team, the Celtics, but I had never seen anyone in person perform like that. It was other worldly, divinely inspired, and I was hooked.
Your favorite sports teams.
All teams Boston. As a first-generation American and the first person in my family born outside of India, I think sports, and specifically Boston sports, were a language and tool for me to assimilate. I may not have a lot in common culturally with folks who I grew up with, went to school with, etc., but we had a shared love of the teams, appreciation for their heritage and mythology, and undying hope in their potential. As my family grew and more cousins immigrated from India to the U.S. for school and otherwise, I inculcated them into our ways and made pretty much everyone diehards.
Your favorite athletes.
I have a lot who I have admired from afar through the years. As a Celtics fan growing up in the '80s, Larry Bird was of course the man. Later, guys like Pedro Martinez and David Ortiz were such incredible catalysts to reversing the fortunes of the infamously cursed Red Sox. More recently, though, I've worked with Tom Brady and Stephen Curry and seen how intensely devoted they are to their craft, while also balancing their families and other commitments. I've gained a real appreciation and respect for them both from that.
Your favorite sports show or podcast.
Inside the NBA. I am a basketball junkie, so I can watch pretty much any game, any time. There's also such great personalities and chemistry among all the hosts. As far as podcasts, I am a big fan of Bill Simmons, fellow Masshole and all that. Despite all the success, he remains the ultimate fan and that's relatable!
Your favorite sports movie and/or video game.
Oh man, I recently re-watched Moneyball with my son and was reminded again how much I really loved it. Just a great movie, well acted and written, but also a lot of great nerdy baseball stuff. As far as video games, it has to be Madden, right? I don't think I'd want to know how many hours I played that game during college!
A recent project you're proud of.
Well, I'm still working on it so I'll go with Man in the Arena: Tom Brady, which is a 10-part docuseries running on ESPN+. I love it because I've lived it. Way before I knew Tom and started collaborating with him, I was a Patriots fan and lived and died by their successes and failures. I watched Tom rise from obscurity into the incredible star and epicenter of the franchise. Then I met him, started collaborating with him, and eventually became friends with him. So, in some ways, this project, as much as it is about Tom and his evolution across time, it often feels that same way to me. Which is why I'd encourage people not to just go watch the series on ESPN+, but also listen to the Man in the Arena podcast, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever else you get your podcasts!
Someone else's project that you admired recently.
Matt Ogens' short film Audible, which is available on Netflix. Matt is a wildly talented filmmaker that I've had the privilege of collaborating with, and the story he's crafted about a group of deaf football players and the deeper meaning of sports is truly inspiring, not to mention wildly cinematic.
What sports can do that nothing else can.
Sports are religion. They provide community and can be transformative. Miracles happen all the time. They teach us about accountability and resilience and then enable people to experience their peak potential. Institutional religions require faith; the religion of sports just requires presence.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the sports world.
Meh. I don't think too much about "what ifs" or spend time thinking two years out, or five years out, or what I want to be when I grow up. I'm here now, present, enjoying the moment or trying to solve a problem. That deserves all my attention so that's where I put it!